I was taking my five o’clock walk and was about to turn down the street I had lived on all my life when I suddenly realized it wasn’t that street at all. It was a street I had never seen before. This is what happens when you do things automatically. You stop seeing what’s around you. Like the fact that, at this moment, a crack in the sidewalk was rapidly widening into a deep gorge. I stopped just in time, peering down at a blue river far below. The whole gorge was bathed in the kind of pink glow you sometimes see at dawn that makes you want to jump out of bed and set off on an adventure. Long I stood there, oblivious to the honking traffic and sirens. I eyed a narrow ledge winding down along the walls, and a parade of people merrily laughing and singing as they descended into the depths. I thought I heard the faint strain of a drinking song I once knew in college. I waved and one of them waved back, inviting me to join them. I was just about to do so when I observed farther down that both the ledge and the parade came to an abrupt end as, one by one, people jumped into the gorge, all flapping their arms for a time as they plummeted to their certain deaths. Why did they flap their arms, I wondered? And why on earth didn’t they stop? Were they all insane? In vain, I yelled at them, but the mad procession continued in a grim wave of falling, flapping specks of humanity. Helplessly, I stared down at the river, oh so blue it broke my heart. And in that moment, I suddenly understood all the mysteries of life and death and the pull of a river that could make someone follow it wherever it leads. I felt an irresistible urge to join them. It was then that I realized that the gorge was slowly closing as the hidden world zipped shut beneath me, leaving nothing but a crack in the sidewalk. I stood there, befuddled. Then I realized my mistake. I had taken a left instead of a right. Resuming my walk, I resolved to pay better attention to where I am going.
Gene Twaronite is a Tucson poet, essayist, and children’s fiction writer. He is the author of ten books, including two juvenile fantasy novels as well as collections of essays, short stories, and poems. His poetry book Trash Picker on Mars (Kelsay Books) was the winner of the 2017 New Mexico-Arizona Book Award for Arizona poetry. His latest poetry collection is The Museum of Unwearable Shoes. Follow more of Gene’s writing at his website: thetwaronitezone.com.
for hours, I am still waiting
so I can spit
into my bathroom sink
with a healthy squeeze
I breathe in again
and hold it again,
like noxious-fumes avoidance
or a morning bong hit.
I waste scant time
like pickle shots,
popping placebos like Xanax,
sucking fresh air,
changing my paradigm,
changing the font
on my nameplate,
changing my password
to something less accessible
changing reality itself.
I am frantic to exhale
Because, in the morning,
I gasp for breath.
Growing up in Houston, Texas, Eric Blanchard dreamed of dropping out of high school, but when the haze of adolescence cleared, he found himself in law school instead. After being a trial lawyer for a decade and a half, he ran away to Ohio, where he taught school and lived a mindful life for about a minute. Eventually, he returned home to help care for his parents. Eric’s poetry has been included in numerous collections, both online and in hard copy. In 2013, his prose poem “The Meeting Ran Long” was nominated for Sundress Publications’ Best of the Net anthology. His chapbook, The Good Parts, was published in January 2020 by Finishing Line Press.
Her scent no longer on your face attests
the word apartment is no accident —
it’s parceling, like beans from squash
or like the homebound from the lost.
As gardens, so with rooms: and yet upon
this whisking of tea powder in a bowl
until the conjured swirl displays
the roily froth of all our days,
consider, when our children see the crush
of fragrant yarrow on our backs and shins,
how in telling plain and glad
we might profess the myriad
reckonings of love, that from a fall
when everything, impossibly, is spring,
this place, since from bereavement taken,
may canopy the paths of the forsaken.
Greg Sendi a Chicago writer and former fiction editor at Chicago Review. In the past year, his poetry and fiction have appeared or are forthcoming in a number of literary magazines and online outlets, including Apricity, The Briar Cliff Review, Clarion, CONSEQUENCE, The Masters Review, Plume, Pulp Literature, San Antonio Review and upstreet among others.
Grackles fly over the doll factory.
Dolls reach out their stiff arms,
they know you’re dead.
Someone sues Big Pharma—
too late for you.
At the back of the turquoise bodega
drug deals go down.
Even in jail you found things
to smile about
even if you smiled wistfully,
like someone who remembers red poppies
when they had eyes.
The peacocks of addiction
strut their luminous wares.
Wherever you go
their purple moons tremble with promise.
When you sleep
they catch your dreams in snares.
They peck your bright hopes,
Eighteen Months Recovery
You take your girlfriend to detox
as I once drove you along the potholes of Mass. Ave
to Boston Medical.
I have a video we took that night—
your hands shaking, skin
hanging on depleted bones.
You give your girlfriend a pink rose.
You give her kisses you’ve been saving for years.
I wish I could spare you the urgent truth:
She loves someone more than you.
Someone who stuffs promises in her suitcase,
someone with a voice like liquid caramel,
a nomad who goes by different names:
Juice, Tar, Mud, sometimes just H.
The trustee of hopelessness
holds her hand and whispers, Come,
come into the shadow of no memories,
the fortuity of my embrace.
Lee Varon is a poetry, fiction and non-fiction writer. She won the 19th Annual Briar Cliff Review Fiction contest. Her poetry and short stories have been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and published in various journals including Painted Bride Quarterly and Atlanta Review. In 2017, Finishing Line Press published her chapbook, Affairs Run in the Family. In 2018 she won the Sunshot Poetry Prize for her book, Shot in the Head. She is the co-editor of the anthology Spare Change News Poems: An Anthology by Homeless People and those Touched by Homelessness, published by Ibbetson Street Press in 2018.
Forty years ago, with smoke wafting
down our hallway and billowing
under the door and the fire alarm
blaring away, I had to get out fast.
My young wife was at work,
no animals to locate and save,
years away from our child’s birth,
I grabbed what was, at the time,
my most valuable possession—something
I’d held dear since my first year at
the University of Wyoming where I sat
in Richard Howey’s philosophy class,
sharpened my life, progressed it out of
the cave of conformity and complacency.
I grabbed my copy of The Portable Nietzsche
and fled our smoke-choked abode.
Outside, on the sunbleached sidewalk,
while helmeted Denver firemen wrapped
in their heavy rubber coats and boots,
stormed our building, I opened to Zarathustra
and read my favorite aphorism—a beatitude
Freddy wrote to Christians whom, he averred,
always slept well because they got God
to forgive their sins every night before bed:
“Blessed are the sleepy ones,” he wrote,
for they shall soon drop off.”
As it turned out, ours was a silly,
if smokey, dumpster fire, put out easily
by Denver’s best. When my sweet wife
returned from her day’s labor (I was still
struggling to obtain my BA), I told her
of the afternoons’ excitement.
Had I wrapped arms around our wedding album?
she wanted to know. Had I carried it out of
our endangered building that day, rescued
our most cherished memories from the
inchoate flames? Her long dark hair,
moon-cool eyes, and hands whose fingers
moved over me like a Chopin etude,
instantly obliterated twenty years of Catholic
dogma about truth telling as well as my
adherence to Nietzsche’s transvaluation
of all values. Of course, I replied. I ran out
of our endangered home with our memories
held firmly in my hands, kept safe from
flames, hoses, water damage, and enemies:
foreign or domestic.
That night I slept well. Dropped right off.
Charlie Brice is the winner of the 2020 Field Guide Magazine Poetry Contest and is the author of Flashcuts Out of Chaos (2016), Mnemosyne’s Hand (2018), An Accident of Blood (2019), and The Broad Grin of Eternity (forthcoming), all from WordTech Editions. His poetry has been nominated for the Best of Net anthology and twice for a Pushcart Prize and has appeared in The Atlanta Review, Chiron Review, Plainsongs, I-70 Review, The Sunlight Press, Anti-Heroin Chic, and elsewhere.
Oakland, September 9, 2020
The dark sky surreal
the color of a child’s crayon
the sun uneasy red
five million acres
and there she was
white tail flagging
ghosted by silence
moisture pulled from plants
as temperatures rise
ready to flame
sometimes in the darkness
you can see more clearly
I’m sorry I whispered
Hunger stones as memorials
hunger stones as warnings
of famine of drought of
emaciated animals, failing crops
of too many bodies to bury
Stones embedded into river banks
in 1417, 1616, 1717, 1842, 1892
carved with words or pictures
to alert people that when the stone is
exposed, the river is perilously low
So many hunger stones now visible
our land parched and burning
revealing the truth buried beneath
A toy gun held by a twelve year old boy
I can’t breathe cried eleven times
a stolen box of cigars, a counterfeit
twenty dollar bill, a man asleep in his car
a man selling loose cigarettes
Hunger stones named Eric Garner,
Michael Brown, Tamir Rice,
Walter Scott, Alton Sterling,
Philando Castile, Stephon Clark
Breonna Taylor, George Floyd
Wenn du mich siehst, dann weine
carved on a hunger stone in the Czech Republic
If you see me, weep
Claire Scott is an award winning poet who has received multiple Pushcart Prize nominations. Her work has appeared in the Atlanta Review, Bellevue Literary Review, New Ohio Review, Enizagam and Healing Muse among others. Claire is the author of Waiting to be Called and Until I Couldn’t. She is the co-author of Unfolding in Light: A Sisters’ Journey in Photography and Poetry.